A crazy man's video triggers protection of bird sanctuary

Updated: 2012-11-01 11:14

By Pu Zhendong (China Daily)

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A crazy man's video triggers protection of bird sanctuary

A crazy man's video triggers protection of bird sanctuary

Li Feng calls himself a "crazy man" on his Sina Weibo page and in many media interviews. The cameraman from Changsha Evening News has recently been called the nation's consciousness on bird protection, after he filmed a 12-minute documentary, which he posted on Chinese video website, youku.com, in mid October.

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As of Oct 30, the documentary titled Massacre on the Thousand-year Bird Passage received almost 300,000 pageviews. Among the about 2,800 comments, words such as "shock", "outrage" and "ignorance" show up the most.

The footage, filmed by Li Feng and two other fellow volunteers, revealed the scandal of illegal fowling and black market trading of migratory birds at Guidong county of Hunan province. To collect enough evidence, the crew made eight secret inquiry trips deep into the Luoxiao Mountains from Sept 20 until mid-October.

According to Li, there are three kinds of hunters. Local villagers kill birds for food; professional fowlers catch birds for sale; while the last group shoots for fun.

"We often see expensive cars from Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces in the mountains. They bring air guns as well as beautiful girls and beer. They turn the killing into a horrendous form of entertainment," says Li.

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The filming experience, filled with cliff falls, poisonous snakes and hostility from villagers, was as dangerous as expected. Before setting out, Li wrote this on his Weibo: "It's a life-risking secret investigation. If I don't update in the next couple of days, something wrong would have happened."

Li expected the danger on site but he didn't expect his life to be threatened with the spread of the video. In an interview with CCTV's Face to Face on Oct 28, Li burst into tears, claiming that he has received life threats and admitting that he is stressed out and frightened by the entire experience.

"I received life threats on Weibo. Some people have vowed to find me and shoot me because I disrupted their (the poachers') money-making venture," he says in sobs. "But I will continue my investigation because I am a crazy man."

Thanks to the efforts of Li Feng's team, the safety of migratory birds finally earned attention from the society and authorities.

The Guidong county government responded quickly by conducting a special field campaign to rectify the illegal fowling on Oct 21, including taking over fowling equipment, shutting down restaurants which serve the birds and banning bird trade.

The State Forestry Bureau of China also issued an urgent notice on Oct 24, ordering relevant departments to take effective measures to further prohibit the hunting of migratory birds.

Experts and environmental protection communities also join in the discussion and action.

The Hunan Bird Protection Camp, a volunteer group organized by the Hunan Federation of Environmental Protection Organizations, went on a three-day operation from Oct 26.

"We will set up regular lookout posts along the bird passage. The volunteers will take turns to guard," says He Jianjun, head of the federation. "But it calls for more assistance from enterprises and social groups."

Deng Xuejian, professor of Hunan Normal University who drew the bird migration map of Hunan province last September, sees opportunities from the saga. He envisions the area to be turned into an international bird watching area for enthusiasts.

"The scenic area will boost local economy through tourism," says Deng. "When that happens, local villagers will not kill the birds."